The disappointing performance of the BJP in the just-concluded civic elections in West Bengal has perhaps ended all curiosity about the next year's assembly elections in the same state. The sharp dip in the saffron party's vote-share in Kolkata since last year's Lok Sabha election has in a way concluded the story. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) is certainly looking the favourites to extend its rule in the state where it had made possible a miracle four years ago.
BJP's noise over Saradha and terrorism hasn't paid off
But why did the BJP fail to capitalise on the momemtum that it had gained in the state just a year ago? The BJP spoke a lot to corner the tainted government of Banerjee over the Saradha chit-fund scam and alleged terror connections between Bengal and Bangladesh but none of those proved to be of much help in the end, even not in Kolkata where the party could manage just seven out of 144 corporation seats.
Modi wave has died down in Bengal
The Narendra Modi wave has stopped working for the BJP, certainly in Bengal. The party perhaps banked too much on the wave and did not work on a Plan B to capitalise on the wave.
BJP lacks a sound local leadership, a face to identify
It did not have a sound local leadership to take up the baton and carry on with the push that the Modi factor had given. Rahul Sinha, the state BJP president, is not a face that a new BJP can aspire to be guided by to reach new heights.
It is time the party brings a positive change in the top leadership in the state and start working on a long-term plan and agenda. A face is a must, just like Modi at the helm. [Listen here]
Just like the current Left, the lack of strong organisation has hurt the leadership
But having said that, changing the top leadership needs a robust organisation. For a cadre-based party like the BJP, a sound leadership can be assured only if the ground organisation is strong but just like the current state of the Left Front, the BJP's organisation is not in a great shape which can produce good leaders to lead from the front.
Slogans like "Bhaag Mamata Bhaag" will not help BJP
Bengal still needs leaders from other states to guide them in the state but those leaders are in no way a match for Mamata Banerjee, even when her party goes through an unhappy phase. So just uttering "Bhaag Mamata Bhaag" on the streets of Kolkata is not going to help the BJP much in the state where the Trinamool chief is still the only political alternative for aam Bengalis, whether she is doing enough as an administrator or not.
BJP's traditional politics is out of sync with Bengal's political culture
Besides leadership and organisation, the BJP also needs to address the ideological aspect if it wants to take Banerjee by her horns. The saffron party has not been a force in Bengal traditionally for the socio-political psyche of Bengal is not in tune with its ideological standing.
Bengal's ruling parties have always been 'secular', where does the BJP fit in unless it does something different?
Bengal's political forces are not much different in terms of ideology (the Congress, Left and the Trinamool Congress have all been 'secular' in their functioning) but it is the party polarisation based on support base and leadership which has made all the difference.
BJP has to practise polarising party support base and not religion if it has to succeed in Bengal
The BJP is completely out of sync with Bengal's secular brand of politics and its weapon of polarising votes on grounds of religion remains blunt. Winning an election in Bengal is impossible without polarising party support base, unlike in Gujarat.
And to polarise the party support base, the BJP has to penetrate deep into the heart of Bengal and make strong organisational impact.
Politics in Bengal is an all-encompassing force, thanks to the Left Front's legacy of 'social engineering' and the BJP has to make foray in each household if it has to capitalise on the anti-incumbency mood against Banerjee's government. But just picking a Roopa Ganguly or trying to steal limelight over some celebrity joining the party will not help the BJP to get its actual job done.
The BJP has to ape Mamata Banerjee's style of politics to beat her in her den
The BJP leadership must understand that Bengal is not as urbanised a state and making an impact beyond the borders of Kolkata will need some special effort, away from the known saffron politics.
BJP will also have to emphasise on 'women power' to tackle Mamata Banerjee
A trick that the BJP is perhaps missing while taking on the TMC in Bengal is emphasis on women empowerment. Mamata Banerjee is a leader who just not had toppled a strong Left from power after 34 years, she had also cemented her place as the ultimate symbol of women's empowerment.
The BJP, which is more seen as a party that practises a macho brand of politics, needs to nurture an alternative to Mamata if it has to attract the feminine vote-bank of the state. Just targetting Mamata Banerjee over scams and terror links will only strengthen her image among her core support base.